Supreme Court Rules – Teachers Cannot Tattle on Students

Supreme Court Case Decision on Teacher Testimony

Another victory for the Defense bar! Yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the Confrontation Clause is violated where statements made by a child to his or her schoolteacher identifying an individual of child abuse are admitted at trial.

In State v. Clark, the trial court admitted the hearsay statements of a three-and-a-half-year-old to his preschool teachers in response to questions regarding visible injuries to the child’s face. Because school teachers have a duty to report suspected child abuse, the Supreme Court noted that teachers have a dual capacity: to fulfill their obligation as an educational instructor and also to be an agent of the state and report suspected child abuse. Furthermore, because there was no ongoing emergency at the time the child made the statements to his teachers, and because the purpose of the questioning was to establish past events that could potentially be used in a criminal prosecution, the statements were testimonial in nature, thereby triggering the protections of the Confrontation Clause. The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, and held that the statements made by the minor child to his teachers should have been suppressed.

The result? If a teacher elicits statements from a child when there is no immediate threat of harm, those statements will not be admissible in a subsequent criminal prosecution.

*Read the slip opinion here: